There have been major changes during the 1915 campaign of the year. By the beginning of 1915, it became finally clear that the war of maneuver (especially on the Western Front) was over. The best defense was the earth. Troops dug into the ground. A three-meter-deep trench significantly reduced losses during shelling. And at least partial use of concrete saved even from howitzers. Faster than all the Germans understood it, followed by the British. The French and the Russians clung for the smallest trenches longer.
The new German chief of the General Staff, Falkenhain, ordered the creation on the Western front of a second line of defensive positions with concrete pillboxes between them. By the autumn of 1915, this task was solved, and the German positions became almost impregnable (with the presence of combat-ready troops). The Germans built a protective belt to a depth of 3 kilometers. The artillery was now installed so that it met the attackers with a fiery curtain. Then it was necessary to break through the machine-gun fire. As a result, the Western Front was becoming impenetrable on both sides. This defense had to literally "gnaw", washing with blood and moving a few meters.
The eastern front was almost twice as long as the Western one. The two and a half German divisions on the Western Front held positions half as large as on the Eastern Front. Therefore, the possibility of a war of maneuver was maintained only in the East.
In Germany, they understood the danger of a positional war, given the separation of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires from world markets and their resource insufficiency. However, the transition to a positional war made it possible for the German Empire to maintain freedom of action for delivering a powerful strike on one of the strategic directions. That is, Germany could lead a positional struggle on one front and concentrate all its efforts on another front. General Falkengine initially wanted to continue concentrating all his efforts on defeating France, and freeze the Eastern Front, urging Russia to conclude a separate peace. However, within the German military and political elite, a struggle began between the “Westerners” and the “Easterners”, between the adherents of the idea of delivering the main attack on France and the adherents of the concept of defeating the Russian empire. In the end, the victory leaned toward the "East". Falkenghayn, not having the authority of Moltke Sr., was forced to obey them.
Among the political factors that forced Germany to turn to the East, the following can be singled out: 1) the danger of a complete defeat and the withdrawal from the war of Austria-Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian army in 1914 suffered a terrible defeat in Galicia and found itself on the verge of a complete catastrophe, from which only the Germans saved the Austrians;
2) accession to the Central Powers of the Ottoman Empire, which increased the pressure on Russia. Russia was forced to divert part of the forces to the Black Sea, Caucasian and Persian theaters. The joint blow of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey to Russia promised success;
3) the likelihood of Italy's performance on the side of the Entente worsened the already poor position of Austria-Hungary. It was necessary to defeat the Russian army, so that the Austrians could concentrate additional forces on the Italian front;
4) the desire to win over Romania and Bulgaria. A convincing victory in the East should have attracted the political elites of these countries to the side of the Central Powers;
5) German Chancellor Betman-Golweg and the main command of the Eastern Front, represented by Hindenburg and Ludendorff, insisted on defeating Russia in the first place. They argued that the Russian Empire was a colossus with feet of clay, which could not provide lasting resistance. Termination in one way or another of the war with Russia drew tempting pictures of solving many problems, including economic ones. In addition, many representatives of the German ruling class wanted to solve the problem of the Russian threat. The invasion of the Russian army in East Prussia in 1914, many scared. As a result, by February 1915 the German High Command finally chose the Eastern Front as the main one for the armies of the Central Powers.
The French and the British did not interfere with this, it corresponded to their interests. Both Joffre and French believed that it was necessary to liberate the territory of France and Belgium captured by the Germans in 1914, but they were not going to throw all their forces at the breakthrough of the enemy defense. The French and the British were going to conduct a series of consecutive offensive operations and oust the Germans. The commander-in-chief of the British expeditionary forces in France, Field Marshal John French, believed that the fate of the war would be decided on the Eastern Front, in the West it was only necessary to withstand "until the Russians could finish the job."
In Paris and London, they quickly realized that time was playing for them. The British and French colonial empires could afford a war of attrition, especially given the possibility of relying on US financial and industrial resources. While Russia and Germany will exhaust each other, France and England could quietly build up their military-industrial potential and solve tactical tasks.
During the lull at the turn of 1914 and 1915. The German military command hastily prepared for a new campaign. The Germans created a new formation and increased the army. To do this, they moved from 4-regimental to 3-regimental divisions and used the fourth regiments for the personnel core in the newly formed divisions. A strategic reserve was formed from 4 cases, of which 3 were new, and the fourth - a fresh case from the Western Front, which was also replaced there by the newly formed one.
Back in December, 1914, the head of the Austrian General Staff, Conrad von Hötzöndorf, proposed to the German high command a plan of a concentric attack on Sedlets from the north and from the south to encircle the Russian armies in Poland. The Germans rejected his plan. In January 1915, Höttsendorf reiterated the idea of a strike on the Eastern Front, but in the direction from the south-west to Lviv. This plan was supported by Hindenburg, who noted that a blow from Galicia must be made simultaneously with a decisive blow from East Prussia.
Under the threat of withdrawal of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the war, Berlin decided to organize a strategic offensive in the East. “Regarding the state of the allied forces,” wrote Falkenhain, “serious doubts arose as to how strong their front could be without strong German support ... It was necessary to move on to immediate and direct support of the Carpathian front ... That is why the head of the General The headquarters had to decide on the use of young corps in the East - the only general reserve at that time ... Such a decision signified a refusal, and, moreover, for a long time, from all active enterprises of large scale and in the West.
In January-February, 1915, Germany decided to deliver the main blow during the 1915 campaign of the year on the Eastern Front. Hindenburg was handed a 4 corps reserve for an attack from East Prussia. From these corps, the 10 Army was formed under the command of Hermann von Eichhorn. And to support the onset of the Austro-Hungarian army in the Carpathians, the 3 of the Germanic and several Austrian divisions was formed by the Southern Army of Linsingen. The Austro-Hungarian command force formed a strike force in order to break through to the fortress of Przemysl and release a large grouping of troops that was blocked there. To solve this problem, Vienna transferred even troops from the Serbian front to the Carpathians, where shortly before Potiorek's army was defeated by Serbs.
Thus, the German high command wanted to warn the Russian offensive and prevent the possible defeat and withdrawal of the war from Austria-Hungary. For this, the German and Austro-Hungarian armies were to go on the offensive, in order to cover the Russian front in depth from both flanks: from the north - in the direction of Osovets - Grodno and from the south - from the Carpathians to the Przemysl - Lviv sector. The Germans planned to seize the strategic initiative and inflict a decisive defeat on the Russian army.
In the ruling class of Russia, by the beginning of 1915, there was a general calm. The first shock of defeat in East Prussia was over, it was smoothed over to conduct successful operations in the south-western strategic direction. There was a belief in a quick victory over Austria-Hungary. The presence in the coalition, in addition to France, the mighty British Empire with the dominions calmed Petersburg.
In the early 1915, the Russian army was roughly equivalent to the forces of the German-Austrian opponent: at the front stood 99 infantry divisions and, in addition, in the rear at the disposal of the Supreme Commander were 2 body - Guards and IV Siberian - only 4 ½ infantry divisions against them 41 German and 42 Austrian - total 83 infantry divisions. In the infantry, the forces were almost equal, in cavalry we were twice superior to the enemy, but in artillery the Austro-Germans were superior to us twice. However, the Caucasian Front diverted 13 infantry and 9 cavalry divisions. As a result, in May 1915, the preponderance was already on the side of the Central Powers: 110 of the Austro-German divisions against the 100 Russians. Only by the middle of 1916, the Russian army regained a noticeable numerical superiority over the enemy: the 150 of the Russian divisions against the Austro-German 100.
It is worth considering that the Russian divisions during the 1914 campaign of the year were greatly weakened. Incomplete army reached half a million people. Especially not enough officers. Personnel officers were severely knocked out. Non-commissioned officers in some parts were almost completely incapacitated. As a result, the infantry lost most of the most efficient core, which held the whole army, and the empire. The best, most healthy, young soldiers and officers trained in combat were killed. The acute problem of accelerated training in reserve regiments, training teams, military schools and academies was on the agenda. The new officers were inferior in quality, originated from intellectuals and semi-intellectuals, were infected with socialist, liberal ideas or indifferent to the monarchy. In addition to combat losses, losses by patients and prisoners, the number of bayonets in the infantry regiments decreased markedly due to the gradual saturation of the units with new technical means. Their service required a large expenditure of people at the expense of martial artists.
At the same time, the morale of the troops somewhat fell due to a number of failures and Pyrrhic victories, as well as the unpopularity of the war. Her goals were incomprehensible to the soldiers' masses. “Bosphorus” for a simple Russian peasant, who made up the army, meant nothing. Already at the end of 1914, severe penalties had been imposed for causing personal injury to oneself or another person with the aim of evading military service, as the number of “crossbows”, i.e., intentional self-injunction, increased.
More alarming caused the material supply of the army. Pre-war reserves were exhausted. Hopes for a quick war did not materialize. Russian industry could not cope with the saturation of troops weapons, equipment, ammunition and ammunition. By the beginning of the 1915, the Russian army required 200 thousands of rifles, 2 thousands of machine guns, 400 guns, 200 million cartridges and 1,5 million shells per month. The army received monthly 30 — 32 thousand guns, 216 machine guns, 115 — 120 guns, 50 million cartridges and 403 thousand shells, that is, 15 — 30% of the required quantity.
At the same time, the industry of the German Empire was able to quickly adjust to the Russian one on military rails. The presence of a developed industry, mobilization capacities, the best engineering and technical staff in the world, and highly skilled workers made it possible to quickly transfer German industry to the military way. In January, 1915, the German industry by 80%, and by May, by 100%, covered the ever-increasing needs of the German army for weapons and ammunition. Russia was able to reach the more or less necessary level of supply of weapons and ammunition only by the fall of 1915, when the main battles were already lost.
Hope for Western help did not materialize. Allies on the Entente themselves needed guns, rifles and ammunition. Russia could be supported only by the residual principle. For example, 300 thousand Winchester rifles were ordered in the USA, 1,5 mln - Remington, 1,8 mln - Westinghouse. But only the first one completed the order, and by March 1917 of the year. Internal corruption, sloppiness, and in some cases sabotage, exacerbated the situation.
All this led to the fact that not enough rifles. There were cases when replenishments arriving at the front remained with the wagons due to the impossibility of putting them into service due to the absence of rifles. At the front, they set a monetary reward for each excess rifle removed from the battlefield, and at the dressing points they provided benefits to the wounded, who retained their rifles. Problems arose with the training of personnel in the reserve battalions.
No better deal with artillery shells. Already during the 1914 campaign of the year, a “shell of hunger” was observed. The experience of the 1914 campaign of the year showed that it was necessary to have up to 300 shots per month on a light gun. But in reality, consumption was less than 25% of the required. The replenishment of heavy artillery shells was in an even worse position.
It is clear that the allies have a bad situation. For example, in France, the mobilization stocks of shells for 75-mm guns lasted only one month of war, and the stock of rifles - until November 1914. In the English army, one gun at the beginning of the 1915 of the year accounted for a total of from 4 to 10 shells. However, this did not alleviate the situation of the Russian army. Russian industry to 1916 year coped with the military crisis and even began to increase production. Weapons and ammunition made so much that it was more than enough for a long civil war. But this does not justify the tsarist government, which could not prepare the economy and society for the possibility of a long war of attrition. The lesson of the Russian-Japanese war was not adequately learned.
The situation in the high command worsened the situation even more. The headquarters in Warsaw wanted to concentrate against Germany, and the headquarters in Kiev looked only at Austria-Hungary. In mid-January 1914 of the year, Quartermaster General General Danilov developed a plan of operations for the campaign of the 1915 of the year. This plan was in the interests of the allies. Russia was supposed to deliver the main blow in the Berlin direction. The immediate task was to seize East Prussia. Ruzsky, commander-in-chief of the North-Western Front, supported the idea of delivering a main attack on Germany and found it desirable to immediately launch an offensive in East Prussia. As a result, the South-Western Front was to play a secondary, supporting role in the 1915 operations of the year. However, the commander of this front, Ivanov and his chief of staff, General Alekseev, had their own opinion and did not abandon the strategic offensive in the Carpathians in order to defeat the Austro-Hungarian army. And the supreme commanders did not have the necessary authority or perseverance to stop this discord.
February 5 Ivanov arrived at Headquarters and personally reported that the plight of the Southwestern Front’s armies in the Carpathian Mountains due to winter time and the lack of premises forced the Russian army to quickly bring down the Austro-Hungarian troops from the mountains and descend to Hungary. The supreme commanders easily gave in to this pressure.
Thus, together with the plan for a new invasion of Germany, a plan was born to invade Hungary. This worsened the situation of the Russian army, since the troops could not concentrate their efforts on one strategic direction, but were dispersed along divergent operational lines - into East Prussia and into Hungary.
An interesting fact is that the Russian General Headquarters learned about the plans of the enemy, but did not take drastic measures in response and did not cancel the offensive either in East Prussia or in the Carpathians, shifting the responsibility to the front commanders. The directive of the Supreme Commander from 23 February said: “Unfortunately, we are currently unable to take a decisive general counter-maneuver, neither according to our means nor the state of our armies, with which we could wrest the initiative from the enemy’s most profitable directions for us. The only course of action suggested by the situation is to weaken the forces of the left bank of the r. Wisla, with the aim of frequent counter-maneuvers on the right bank of the r. Wisla and in the Carpathians, at the option of the commanders-in-chief of the fronts, to stop the enemy’s attempts to develop offensive actions and to inflict at least partial defeats on him. ”
As a result, in February and March 1915, Russia and Germany almost simultaneously began their operations in East Prussia and the Carpathians.
To be continued ...